Lake’s students represent
community well at UW town hall
Nearly 300 area residents took part in the open-forum meeting, including 50 or so high school students. For our community, it was a proud night.
Walking in to the $65 million Cavelero Mid High commons area, residents were greeted by purple and gold balloon arrangements, purple and gold potted flowers, purple and gold flower arrangements and huge UW-themed banners. Aside from the decorative elements, visitors were greeted by the stunning site of the spacious Cavelero commons area an area where students eat lunch each day, but that has the feel of a world class auditorium. The UW panelists set up in front of a mammoth glass wall, through which views of Mt. Rainer are possible on sunny days. The program began with a recap of the siting process to date. Specifically, the consultants behind the process explained how over 80 site applications had been sorted down to the final four: one in Lake Stevens, two in Everett and one in Marysville. This was the sixth of seven town hall meetings the panel had provided, and no offense to them, it was apparent that the material had lost its spark, at least in their eyes.
When the State’s 45 minute presentation wrapped up, the emcee opened the floor for community input and questions. The panel specifically requested input on the academic program and campus design, and respectfully requested that site specific material be left out (read: “Don’t tell us why your site is the best and Everett’s isn’t. We are experts, we already know). Now, having personally attended the Everett town hall meeting Oct. 3 at the Events Center, I recalled this part of the event vividly. In Everett, this was the part where every person employed either by the City of Everett or the Everett Chamber of Commerce stood up and rattled on about “economic development” or “infrastructure” or why Everett’s sites were superior and why Marysville and Lake Stevens were inferior. Regardless of what the search team wanted, they were going to get a series of long-winded, self-important speeches from 50+ year old politicians and business leaders. Not a student to be heard, anywhere.
The beautiful part about the Lake Stevens town hall, the part that set us above our neighboring communities, is the fact that when the panel opened the floor for community input, immediately thereafter an enthusiastic bunch of area students paraded to the microphone with a series of well-thought-out, respectful, insightful and sometimes entertaining questions and comments. The ASB leaders of Lake Stevens High School spoke to the panel about the needs of current high school students. The Viking football team was in attendance, and in uniform. Members of the high school band spoke their piece. Cavelero Mid High students spoke to the panel about what they expected from a University of Washington experience. One student even traveled from Woodinville to speak to the panel about the increased opportunity offered through the opening of a new four year university.
As the students spoke, I watched the panelists carefully. U-Dub President Emeritus Lee Huntsman, whom I previously thought to be asleep or dead, perked up and began taking notes. NBBJ Lead Consultant Martin Regge engaged in dialogue with several students. The Governor’s Chief of Staff Marty Brown sat up a little straighter, a smile on his face, and asked several student speakers to elaborate on their respective points.
At the end of the day, the town hall probably had little or no effect on whether we will land the U-Dub campus. But I know this, the members of the search team came away with a clearer understanding of our community, of how we support education, and how active and intelligent our students our. After publicly remarking that the Lake Stevens town hall was the best decorated and had the best signage, the Governor’s Chief of Staff privately told me that he was in awe of the entire Lake Stevens presentation. As the students filed out of the town hall meeting as the event came to a close, the panelists took a look around the empty commons room one last time. They packed up their presentation materials, and headed to Marysville-Pilchuck, where on the very next evening, they listened to less than 100 Marysville elected officials and business people rattle on about economic development and site criteria.
Lake Stevens, be proud of our students, and be proud of our community. After last Monday, I certainly am.
Kevin Hulten writes the weekly Off the Record column and maintains the Off the Record blog at www.lakestevensjournal.com. Email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.